Magazine article American Banker

An On-Line Survey Can Be the Key to Understanding Whether and How a Bank's Web Site Will Be Used

Magazine article American Banker

An On-Line Survey Can Be the Key to Understanding Whether and How a Bank's Web Site Will Be Used

Article excerpt

Build it and they will come? Maybe, maybe not.

For some but not all banks, the Internet can help reduce costs, enhance customer retention, and extend geographic reach. But even banks that can benefit from a site on the World Wide Web need to hone options to meet the needs of specific customer segments - their preferences, tastes, and price sensitivities.

Banks considering building interactive functionality or adding it to Web sites must understand exactly which (if any) services customers will use and, in some cases, be willing to pay a premium for. Failing to gauge customer interest and preferences accurately will doom Internet banking to the same fate as nearly all previous home banking services. The way to this understanding is a valid Web-based survey. The relatively low costs of on line surveys can help banks avoid the high cost of building and maintaining ill-conceived Web strategies.

First, a few words of caution.

Surveys of consumer interest in emerging technologies must be assessed extremely carefully, as Xerox learned when its early research about copying machines referred to then-familiar mimeograph machines. Biases must be avoided that may taint results or steer banks toward unnecessary expenditures and unrealistic expectations.

Samplings are best conducted by impartial third parties, especially when the results will influence significant resource allocations that are subject to internal politics.

Surveys can be used to reach satisfied and unsatisfied, current and potential customers, probing their technical proficiencies, current and projected hardware, and connectivity capabilities. Surveys can also target those who are the best candidates for using a Web site.

Perhaps most important, surveys can help pinpoint Web-based service options, thereby reducing the risk and costs associated with building unnecessary interactivity and security into services that few customers will want or use.

There are many options for delivering surveys - telephone, paper, floppy disk, or Web-based. Responses can be returned via traditional mail or E-mail. While paper-based methods can help determine whether or not to implement a site, on-line surveys can be invaluable for guidance on what products and services to offer. Typically provided via the Web, an on-line survey can be answered at the user's convenience. The electronic responses can be processed immediately.

Among their advantages, on-line surveys can reach vast numbers of prospective, not just current, customers, and complex survey types are implemented more easily by computer than on paper.

There are a number of relevant categories of information that surveys can provide:

Web site usage - the number of current customers who will use a bank's site. Customers' technical proficiency and their hardware and connectivity resources are strong determining factors.

Hardware resources and connectivity. By 2005 it is likely that at least one member in most U.S. households will be gaining access to the Internet, whether via a general purpose or Internet-specific personal computer, palmtop computer, interactive television, or other device. But in the short run, banks need to know how many of their customers currently have access to the Web in general and how many actually use the Web for expense or investment management.

Technical proficiency and Internet awareness. Customers with a high level of technical proficiency will be able to grapple with the (currently) inevitable difficulties associated with connecting to the Internet. A computer-literate customer base will result in lower customer service and support expenses.

Interest in technology. How many customers have PCs or comparable hardware, modems, multimedia capabilities, individual and family computer literacy, and Internet awareness. These data can indicate current and projected usage.

Obviously, traditional paper-based surveys can show whether customers desire to perform banking activities over the World Wide Web. …

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